It's that time of the year again..

Apologies for another March announcement. Whilst it was our intention to announce earlier this year, the major changes this year, as well as other things to address, caused another delay.

In any case, people have more than enough time to plan for this year, and there will be those intending to submit, who have been working on potential entries long before this announcement.

Contest Dates and Contest Week

In 2020, we ran the Contest Week in the last week of October. We found that this resulted in problems with the stream schedule due to the clock change and Halloween happening in the same week.

Following preference given through last year’s feedback form, the Contest Week will remain in October.

To prevent the same problems that affected last year's contest, it has been moved to earlier in the month, which should not be an issue for most people.

Like the last few years, the public will have a chance to view this year's entries, download the hacks and vote for Community Trophies which are only applicable to Contest entries.

If you're planning to debut your submission to the public you can do it then, however nobody can be stopped from releasing earlier. If you want to show it off to the biggest audience possible, the Contest Week is your best time for it.

As before, we'll have an extensive list of streamers playing the entries during the Contest Week - these will be announced closer to the time of the Contest when they have been finalised. We'll also have news coverage much like last year.

This year, to improve coverage of entries shown during the week, we are also considering offering stream time coinciding with the Media Panel streamers for entry developers to showcase their own entry.

Like with previous years, redhotsonic will be handling the Contest Week trailer. Please stay tuned for information on how to submit for the trailer, and when to do this.

Deadlines and Judging

As per before, you can choose to submit your entry to the Contest (which is judged) and the Expo (which is not, and therefore has a later deadline for entries).

This will allow us to ensure that we can better tackle niche games (should any be submitted), better than in prior contests.

Uploads and Patches

As per last year, all entries will be uploaded to the site. No off-site links will be permitted again.

Compared to previous years, last year’s download system allowed for entries to be downloaded without putting any strain on the website, and at no point did the site go down during the week.

In addition, we are engaging with mod loader developers to offer one-click installs of entries on the SHC website when the entries are available to download during the Contest Week, for ease of access and to ensure people play the correctly entered mod builds.

As a general note to anyone who submits, please ensure that you follow the instructions given on the website, filling in the required details where asked to, as well as marking your entry as Complete in order to submit.

Entries marked as Incomplete by the end of the Contest deadline will be moved to the Expo. Entries marked as Incomplete by the end of the Expo deadline will not be showcased.

The Judges

The Hacking Contest is growing! In 2021 we are expanding the judging team to include more community members, each specialized in the various entry categories.

Thoroughly judging entries is time consuming. In 2020 we had a 35% increase in the total amount of entries due for judging compared to the previous three years.

While judges have their preference in terms of how much time is spent on a hack, the fact is that in order to play all contest hacks through from the beginning to the end it typically takes anywhere between 12 and 20 hours.

For those judges who write verbose evaluations, the overall time taken can sometimes even double.

The considerable increase in time necessary to allocate for judging entries has made it difficult for expo entries to gain attention. Last year we widened the gap between submission deadline and contest week.

This year we fixing this with the addition of more staff; which will now focus on judging entries fitting their specialization/area.

This has also allowed the return of a few judges from previous contests, in particular for the Retro Entries, of which a few vacancies were available this year.

With judges only focusing on one area, this should improve the situation for judges and entrants alike.

While most judges will be sticking to categories they are specialized in, certain judges may choose to judge one or more entry categories.

Retro Entries:

• D.A. Garden, Jubbalub, mrcat-pixel, Ravenfreak, Selbi, Spanner, SSF1991 (Donnie), StephenUK, SuperEgg and Yoshister

2DPC Entries:

• Axanery, Jubbalub, LJSTAR, RMGRich, Rubberduckycooly, SSF1991 (Donnie) and SuperSonic16

3D Entries:

• Dario FF, ĐeäTh, HyperBE32, ItsEasyActually, Melpontro, Sajid, Sewer56, Skyth, SpeepsHighway, SSF1991 (Donnie) and TwilightZoney

Cinossu remains involved with the SHC website and will be focusing on that this year rather than taking part in judging.

Any other judge from 2020 not in this list is not involved with SHC as a judge in 2021.

Judges & Contest Submissions

Judges will be allowed to submit their own hacks, however they will not be allowed to judge their own entries (conflict of interest).

This includes submissions that they have been involved with, such as team submissions.

Like last year a spreadsheet has been made to track which games individual Judges can play, although bear in mind this year, Judges will only judge their own section unless otherwise stated.

After the main contest finishes, the Judges will provide more detailed evaluations of the entries to give their opinion, thoughts, and advice they feel is deserved.

Disclaimers

This judge list is not final and additional judges may be recruited to replace former judges who have left the contest due to retiring or other reasons.

Do not ask to be a judge as that just rules you out. If we think you're up to the job, we'll talk to you.

Not all judges can judge all games as they may not have the capability to do so.

For example: 360/PS3 based Sonic hacks requiring either powerful PC for emulation or hacked console. If you submit a non 8/16-bit entry please have this in mind.

The majority of judges however are capable of playing PC-based game entries. Due to the category split, this should not be much of a problem this year.

Please note that the final decisions are subject to the Judging Team and may not reflect your own opinion. If one hack wins a whole load of trophies that is what the judges thought should win.

Judges may change at any time due to unavailability or other reasons.

Trophies

The format is the same to last year, although we may bring back themed trophy names later on, as they are requested by some people from time to time. First, we have three main categories that entries can fall under:

• Retro
For any and all retro console hack entries.

• 3D
For all entries based on the 3D Sonic games outright.

• 2D PC
For those entries based on the 2D ports, rereleases, and remasters on PC, as well as Mania.

RSDK decompilation based mods will also be permitted this year, as they are based on the official iOS/Android releases.

All three of these categories will have a Top 3 result and individual trophies of the following:

• Best Visual
• Best Audio
• Best Technical
• Best Level Design
• Best Voted by Media Panel
• Most Entertaining
• Most WTF (Polygon Jim)
• Best Team Entry
• Best Multiplayer Entry
• Best Character Implementation
• Best Boss Design
• Best Fresh Concept Using Existing Concepts As A Backbone
• Most Potential
• Most Improved Since Last Year

As requested by many, we have returned the Best Character Implementation and Best Boss Design trophies to this year's Contest.

Due to the category split, the Top 3 that could be attributed to any entry from any category will be dropped for this year.

And what of community trophies, you ask? Well, you're all in luck this year. Apart from the obvious exception of "Best Voted by Media Panel", the community get to vote on each and all of these categories and trophies as well.

Contest Rules

Please note that these rules can be changed, added to, or removed from at any time. In such event, the contest staff will notify you through this thread and send a global announcement using any form of Social Media we have at our disposal. We recommend checking back often to ensure nothing has changed.

Everything described in these next sections applies to both the Contest and the Expo unless otherwise specified.

Entry Eligibility

1. Your entry must be based on an existing ROM or game tied to the Sonic The Hedgehog franchise. Homebrew submissions are not accepted.

Hack of Super Mario 64 converting it into a Sonic game.
Custom game engine with imported Sonic game assets.
Hack of a Sonic game turning it into a non-Sonic game.
Hack of a Sonic game introducing new features/content to the game.

Tech demos of console to PC/console conversions are acceptable if based on an existing ROM and/or disassembly.

2. Joke/Meme entries are not allowed in the Contest. Public evaluations clearly shown people did not like the abundance of them in previous contests. Once again we will not be allowing them. They will however be allowed in the Expo provided Quality Control Criteria are met.

3. All entries must be playable and cannot prevent judges from playing them if they have been uploaded. Judges have the right to look at your incomplete work if you have submitted it. However, judges will not allocate trophies based on any incomplete builds, only the last build submitted for the completed entry.

Submission Rules/Guidelines

1. Each entry by a participant may only be submitted to either the Contest or Expo. You cannot have the same entry in both. That said, nothing stops you from submitting any number of different entries to the contest and the expo.

"Sonic Hack R" in Contest AND Expo.
"Sonic Hack R" in Contest.
"Sonic Hack R" in Expo.
"Sonic Hack R" in Contest, "Sonic Hack Z" in Expo.

2. You must include media such as screenshots and videos. The staff will not waste time making these for you.

3. All submissions must be completed through the online site. Emailed or direct-messaged entries will not be accepted.

4. You must inform what has been changed or explicitly what has not. This can be zone and act breakdowns to a full change log, if need be. We need to ensure stock vanilla levels and completely untouched gameplay is not being judged and/or played by the general public. Submissions can inform of other information such as cheat codes, easter eggs, and other worthwhile information that would benefit your entry when being looked at and judged.

Quality Control

In the Sonic Hacking Contest we take quality control very seriously, but try to be inclusive enough to potential contest participants by not setting the bar too high.

For Contest entries the quality control is pretty strict, while for the Expo entries we are a bit more lenient. As a general rule of thumb, we use the following measurements to decide whether an entry is of sufficient quality for the Contest.

Retro & 2D PC Entries

Must have at least 3 of the following:

A. Palette changes, physics changes and other various minor modifications.
B. Art changes, layout changes and/or mapping changes.
C. Engine, sound driver and/or special stage functionality changes.
D. Music and sound effect modifications.

3D Entries

Simple texture only hacks.
Simple object layout modifications.
Model swaps of existing game models, unless the process is technical.
Collections of custom models, assets, objects.
Custom levels and/or playable stages of acceptable quality.
Custom game logic/code written in assembly or existing game logic hooked using arbitrary programming language (C/C++/C#/D etc.)
Modification(s) that change features in the playable game itself.

All Entries

Alternatively if your entry meets any of the following criteria (regardless of entry type), it is sufficient to enter the Contest.

Pick at least 1 of the following:

A. Complete change to the rules of a Sonic game. (Example(s): Sonic Bash v2, Boss Rush Hacks, Knuckles Emerald Hunt)
B. Overhaul into a whole new game. (Example(s): Sonic Scorched Quest, Sonic Virtual Adventure)
C. Technical feat(s). (MarkeyJester's Mode 7 Mega Drive experiments, Lantern Engine, Sonic 4 in 1, etc.)

Can't meet the criteria?

Take some time, look at what you are missing or need to work on and come back in next year with an even better hack than your current one.

Unsure if your entry meets the standards?

Ask a judge or a member of the Hacking Contest staff. If it happens to be the case you already have submitted your entry, do not be concerned. We will tell you if we believe the entry does meet the given standards.

Copyright & Intellectual Property

1. All work used from external sources/contributors (sprites, VGM conversions, etc) must be credited. Hacks found with stolen and / or uncredited content will not be tolerated. If anyone suspects an entry to have stolen and / or uncredited content either flag the entry or contact staff immediately.

2. If you have used asset collections such as music packs from the Internet, please be wary that they are known to contain content illegitimately ripped from other hacks. Please always double check your original sources.

3. If you are reusing assets from another game (such as its art as part of a level) or other assets not created by you, please mention the game or original location in the credits section of the entry page. This will be available this year on the website for you to credit all your work.

The general course of action for stolen content is that the participant will have all of their entries removed from the Sonic Hacking Contest.

What Not To Do

1. Cause or exacerbate drama. The contest is not an appropriate place to air your grievances with individuals or communities.

2. Include obscure jokes/memes that most people will not understand. If the entry focuses on inside jokes with no appeal to anyone other than those in the know, the Contest or Expo is not a valid place for it to be shown.

3. Have NSFW content accessed through normal means. Easter eggs are okay, provided accessible without prior knowledge of existence. Adding the method of access through your entry description, will be considered as "accessed through normal means".

4. Make a joke entry with the sole purpose of just gaming the rules/exploit any loopholes. You'll just be banned, from this year and possibly future years as well.

Other Considerations

1. No private entries. If you want to submit to the Contest your entry must be made available completely to the Public.

2. Offensive content without good context is frowned upon and should be avoided to prevent issues.

3. Give a thought about your target audience. Make sure your entry is not over-complicated to run or unnecessarily bloated. If a mod can be 200MB and easily installed with a mod loader, we don't want to see a 2GB submission that achieves the same thing requiring total file replacement.

4. All entries should be enjoyable for all to play. Please refrain from submitting monotonous, off-putting, or insanely difficult entries (such as "Kaizo" hacks). While these are enjoyable to some we want everyone here to be able to enjoy your entries, and unfortunately these just do not do so to most. If you feel you must submit one of these, please stick to the Expo rather than the Contest.

5. All entries are viewed equal regardless of who submits them. Do not be put off with people well known in the community potentially submitting that could win trophies - people do not win trophies because of who they are in this community, people win because their entry deserved to win.

6. Contact us if you have any issue regarding the Contest. Whilst we do try to collect feedback and other responses from people following the end of the previous year’s Contest Week, on occasion we do come across people who have something to raise regarding the Contest, but do not contact the proper people about it, leading to some issues or grievances not being addressed, which can lead to potential entries not being submitted in some cases.

An example of this can be the 2020 Contest Week being in the week of Halloween, which some people saw as an inconvenience, but people did not bring this up when SHC was announced months before, for which we could have altered the dates if this was preferred. People are entitled to discuss what they think about SHC with people in private settings, but ultimately the only people who can take action, are SHC staff.

It is therefore important that if you have had an issue with SHC at any point of time, to directly contact SHC. If there is anything you want to discuss regarding SHC, you can submit to this form, and staff will reply back in due course.

Please do not use this form to air your grievances about individuals involved in SHC or communities that do or do not take part in SHC activities.

Deadlines

CONTEST SUBMISSIONS DEADLINE: End of Sunday 5th September

CONTEST UPDATES DEADLINE: End of Sunday 12th September

EXPO SUBMISSIONS DEADLINE: End of Sunday 26th September

CONTEST WEEK FROM: Monday 11th to Sunday 17th October

Ready, Set, Procrastinate!!